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Joe Redner knows his past is haunting him.The St. Petersburg Times knows it, too. In a piece about his candidacy, Times reporter Janet Zink wrote about Redner, “Now a millionaire health nut, (Redner) hopes to overcome his reputation as a nude-club owner with a criminal past and win election to the Tampa City Council.”

Unfortunately for Redner, he can’t do that. Not to say he can’t get elected, but after dozens of instances of acting in a manner more befitting a strip club owner than a city councilman – “He goaded police into arresting him and his employees over outlawed lap dances … and drove a talk show guest to throw a chair at him,” according to the Times – the public isn’t likely to differentiate between the “new” Redner and the “old” Redner.

Even the “new” Redner hasn’t exactly renounced his sordid history: The “new” Redner is still the owner of Mons Venus, which, of the several businesses he owns (he’s worth $18 million, according to the Times) is his biggest moneymaker. If he wins, his victory will be a resounding statement of acceptance by Tampa of the adult entertainment industry, as well as its status as “the Sin City of the South.”

After all, it would be hard to argue Redner is known for anything of note besides being a strip club owner. Sure, he’s got experience campaigning for – and failing to win – public office five times in attempts that extend all the way back to 1983 – the same year he was arrested for possession of cocaine.

But his past drug abuses, conflicts with city officials and even his politics all take a back seat to the public perception that connects Redner with the adult entertainment industry. Culturally, a vote for Redner is a vote for that industry: An industry that, while rightfully protected in its existence and operation, is probably not a field Florida should choose its city leaders from.

Of course, many politicians have a reputation for being sleazy, so it’s possible Redner is no worse than anyone else – only more public about his “diversions.” Those diversions, however, should not be supported in either public or private. Most of all, they should not be voted for, no matter how open a candidate may be about them.